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How did 'El Chapo' become Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1?

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M. Spencer Green/AP

(Read caption) From left, Al Bilek, executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, Jack Riley, Special Agent In Charge for the DEA, Chicago Field office, and Peter Bensinger former administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration announce that Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, a drug kingpin in Mexico, is Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1, during a news conference in Chicago, Feb. 14, 2013. Now that Guzman has escaped a prison in Mexico, he’s regaining his infamous title. The Chicago Crime Commission says it will gather Tuesday, to formally restore Guzman’s title as Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1.

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Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will regain the title of Chicago’s “Public Enemy No. 1,” the Chicago Crime Commission is set to announce on Tuesday.

The Mexican cartel kingpin escaped from his maximum-security cell on Sunday, and though he was held in Mexico, the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel is seen as responsible for Chicago’s growing, violent drug trade, in which the Sinaloa remain a key player.

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The Chicago Crime Commission, who initially bestowed the title on Guzman in 2013, removed it in 2014 once he was behind bars. Now that he has escaped, the cartel leader is once again given the label.

Only one other criminal has ever held the spot as Chicago Public Enemy No. 1: gangster Al Capone. 

The Sinaloa Cartel has been described as the most powerful drug cartel in the world, and Guzman the most powerful trafficker. Chicago is a hub for the cartel’s US trafficking and distribution centers, and through it, has vastly impacted the North American drug trade.

The Chicago Crime Commission, a nongovernmental organization, originally named Guzman Chicago's Public Enemy No. 1 to highlight the impact the Sinaloa Cartel has on Chicago's drug trade. He is charged in one of the city's largest narcotics cases, and many believe he should be held there.

“The fact that El Chapo was able to get out of the most secure prison in Mexico positively convinces me that El Chapo should not be being held in Mexico,” Arthur Bilek, the commission's executive vice president, told the Chicago Sun Times on Sunday. “If the attorney general does not demand his return to the United States, the attorney general is not doing her job." 

Guzman escaped from his maximum-security cell in Mexico on Sunday, through a hole in his shower into a large, ventilated tunnel beneath.

This is not the first time that Guzman has escaped prison, having done so once before in 2001. Many are concerned that his latest escape means that the Sinaloa cartel will go back to functioning just as violently as it did over the last decade.

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Michael S. Vigil, a retired US Drug Enforcement Administration chief of international operations, tells the Chicago Sun Times that if Guzman is not caught immediately, he could regain control of the cartel within 48 hours.

“We may never find him again,” Mr. Vigil says. “All the accolades that Mexico has received in their counterdrug efforts will be erased by this one event.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.